EDITORS’ PICKS

By sea: A day with Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office lake patrol

Jul 7, 2017, 5:00 AM | Updated: 8:55 am

Editor’s note: In this multipart series, KTAR News’ Corbin Carson describes a day in the life — on land, water and in the air — of deputies who work on the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Team.

Read part one and part two.

Patrolling lakes over the summer — particularly the busy holiday weekends — is a big job and main focus of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office lake patrol, said Deputy Christopher Pittmann, a senior coordinator for the search and rescue unit.

“We have Game and Fish here, (Americal Medical Response) Ambulance service, of course, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office because you have so many people in one area and, all the lakes, they’re going to be manned pretty heavily to keep people safe,” he said.

While I was with Pittmann, we were sent on a call about an 80-year-old hiker. However, that person was found and we were instead told to respond about a group of boaters who were too close to a dam on Canyon Lake.

Our guide on the lake, MCSO Deputy Mike Stedman, said alcohol is the biggest challenge on the lakes for law enforcement.

“People think that they’re not to the level of intoxication that they are,” he said. “They make bad decisions and slow reactions and that’s what causes problems out here.”

Alcohol is typically involved with all water accidents, from boat to folks drowning while trying to swim.

Stedman had just returned from a drowning call where a man had slipped under the water and had to be pulled out by his daughter.

“When I pulled up everybody’s like, ‘He’s blue! He’s blue! He’s blue!’”

Stedman immediately stepped in to assist Tonto National Forest Officer Carlos Smith, who was already performing chest compressions on the man.

“The subject started breathing again, we got a pulse and he was airlifted to a local hospital,” Stedman said.

It was a happy ending, but even those can be hard to get used to.

“I don’t think that it’s ever necessarily normal,” Stedman said. “I mean it’s what we do, that’s why we’re out here.

“That’s what’s makes this job worth it, is when you can do stuff like that.”

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By sea: A day with Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office lake patrol